It is always a real cause for celebration when the forgotten books of the past are resurrected in new print versions (or as e-books, come to that). Assuming, of course, that they are not books that deserve to be forgotten! In my opinion, Death Walks In Eastrepps most definitely deserves to be remembered. In fact, one critic described it as one of the 10 greatest detective novels of all time. This may be a bit over the top, but nevertheless, it certainly qualifies as a classic.
In a post on this blog almost four years ago, I talked about the book in the context of a discussion on interesting motives for murder, and the motive is certainly distinctive and memorable. But the book as a whole is a lively and entertaining read, and since it is 80 years since its original publication, the time was certainly ripe for its resurrection.
I'm very glad to say, therefore, that a brand-new, attractively produced edition has now become available in an interesting series of Crime Classics from Arcturus Publishing. I'll have more to say about Arcturus in the future, because I do think that their enterprise deserves both praise and encouragement.
Death Walks in Eastrepps is an early example of the serial killer story. In fact, I'd be very interested to hear about any Golden Age detective novels about serial killers that pre-date it – Agatha Christie and Philip MacDonald ventured into this territory a little later, but did anyone get there sooner?
Of course, the story has its unlikely (you might say, exceptionally improbable) aspects. But the atmosphere of the seaside resort terrified by the work of the mysterious multiple murderer is nicely done, and the narrative pace is kept up pretty well.
The author was Francis Beeding, the pseudonym for two writers, Hilary St George Saunders and John Palmer. They wrote a couple of excellent classic detective novels after this one, but later became better known for thrillers. Again, I'd be glad to hear from anyone who has sampled some of their other work.